THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH

Her Doctrine and Morals

Second Sunday of Advent

9 December 2018

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Dear Friends,

After dismissing the disciples of St. John the Baptist, Jesus asks the people what they went out into the desert to see. All these people knew of St. John and had gone out into the desert and were baptized by him. Jesus asks them to consider what it was that led them out to St. John. They did not go out to see an ordinary man. There are plenty of them all around. We don't have to travel far to see or meet with them. There are weak and vacillating men all around us. Many are more like chameleons than men. Our politicians and salesmen are experts in knowing their various audiences and accommodating themselves to those around them. These are reeds bending in the wind. They bend whichever way the wind blows. The unwitting or unthinking crowds are often led astray by these smooth talkers. The serious-minded and thinking people are unimpressed. They are looking for someone of substance — a man who truly believes what he says. This is what set St. John the Baptist apart from others. This is what drew the people out into the desert to see and hear him.

St. John was a man who practiced what he preached. He preached penance while he himself practiced the most austere penance. He prophesied of the Messiah and even pointed Him out. Hence, Jesus tells us that he was more than a prophet. The life of St. John was so starkly different from other men, that many thought that he was the Messiah.

The people were looking for the Messiah, and they went out into the desert to see if St. John was the one. St. John adamantly denied this and taught that he was nothing — unworthy to even loosen the sandal of the Messiah — a simple voice crying in the wilderness. The life and the teaching of St. John were one and the same. To prepare the way, to welcome, and to see the Messiah, we must practice real penance; we must truly diminish ourselves so that Jesus can increase in us.

It is not enough to say that we are insignificant, lowly or unworthy, we must seek out the humblest position possible for us, and we must truly become meek and little. The proud and the high and mighty, the reeds blowing in the wind do not find Jesus. They speak loudly and run here and there and impress many foolish minds and hearts, but they are incapable of finding, knowing, and loving Jesus. They are too full of themselves.

St. John prepared the way into the hearts and minds of the people by enticing them to do penance, to renounce all their evil ways. Only after truly humbling ourselves are we prepared to see and believe that the Son of God came to us as an infant. He is the Child of the Virgin Mary, and the poorest of the poor. He was born in a stable without any honor, glory, or position in this world. It was only to the humble shepherds that the angels appeared and announced His birth. Their humility made it possible for them to accept and believe that this Newborn Child is the Promised Redeemer.

We must learn from St. John not to run after those leaders who will tickle our ears — telling us what they think is pleasing to our passions and fallen natures. All their promises of worldly honor and success are empty and vain. We need to practice penance, mortifying ourselves, seeking true humility. When we have accomplished this, then we become ready to receive Jesus. The pleasure and glory come later, now is the time of cleaning and preparation of our souls.

The poverty, humility, and lowliness of Jesus were scandals to most people. They could not see or accept a Messiah like this. The problem was not with the Messiah but is in the hearts of men. When men are filled with themselves and are all puffed up with the hot air of pride and vanity, there is no room for Jesus to enter in. They see evil where there is only Good and miss out on the only true blessing. This is why Jesus says: "Blessed is he that is not scandalized in Me."

This Advent season we need to truly follow St. John the Baptist out into the desert of self-denial and penance. We need to truly humble our proud souls so that the path is made clear for us to come to Jesus. It is only when we become like Him — meek and humble of heart — that we have the proper perspective to be able to see Him, follow Him, and then enter in and become One with Him. When we become humble we are no longer scandalized by the humility of Jesus.

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